by THE INLANDER STAFF & r & & r & the Farm-To-Table Revolution & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & L & lt;/span & ast fall, longtime friends Gibran Sharpe, Marc Gauthier and Alyssa Krafft began planning a new business endeavor: a bakery and coffee shop in Spokane's Logan neighborhood. Gauthier and Krafft, both graduates of Evergreen State College, were fresh from Michigan where they had an organic farm and sold their produce at local farmers markets. Their bakery, dubbed Natural Start, is committed to using as many locally grown, certified organic, fair trade ingredients as possible. But they knew the renovations on their Hamilton Street building wouldn't be done till long after the first frosts of fall, so they had to do some planning ahead.
"The first thing I did was to reach out to farms," says Gauthier, who now lives near Green Bluff. "I went around to see who's growing what, and then to find out who's growing organic. And that was a challenge, because there aren't many people [in Green Bluff] growing organically -- the only certified [organic] grower in Green Bluff is Cole's, where we get our apples."
Gauthier says he looks for organic certification when he can't go to a farm to verify its practices for himself. "It's the only mechanism that's out there," he says. "Nothing's foolproof ... but if we can't meet the farmers themselves, [certification] is a way for us to know that we are getting organic products."
If he can't find certified organic products, then he researches a grower's methods to see if they're sustainable. "The next challenge was to weed out the other farmers who had the best farming practices," he continues. "That's where the experience of being an organic farmer helped, because I knew the right questions to ask. And that's how we found Verne [Fallstrom] from Strawberry Hill [on Green Bluff], who grows all organically and has for years ... but he's never become certified."
Some growers choose not to undertake organic certification because of the time and money involved, or because they prefer to work directly with their customers with minimal oversight. "I also support the small farmers who don't want the government coming onto their land or don't want to pay the money to be certified, and yet they know what they're doing and they have a relationship directly with their patrons," Gauthier says. "And that's the relationship that's the most enjoyable, because you know the farmer, you get to learn about his practices. Maybe he's not certified, but you believe him."
By talking to farmers and distributors and others in the food business -- and doing a lot of advance planning -- Gauthier has been able to cobble together a supply network to bring in ingredients that are grown in Washington. He and Sharpe bought a lot of local produce last fall, and they've been working through that supply: apples, carrots, potatoes and onions in cold storage; raspberries and spinach in the freezer. The bakery buys certified organic Washington eggs from the URM Cash and Carry store down the road; the coffee obviously is not grown locally, but they buy certified organic fair trade coffee from the local roasters at Doma; the flour comes from wheat grown in Eastern Washington and milled in Bellingham. Gauthier says he continues to seek out sources that are closer while still being sustainable -- and reliable.
"Nearly everything we serve here -- with the exception of some bananas and chocolate and coffee, things that just don't grow here -- can be grown locally," says Gauthier. "I feel that year after year, [the sourcing] is going to get easier and better. We did manage to store all this stuff, so imagine how it will be when we get the whole entire season and have the chance to start even earlier."
Gauthier admits that the bakery has it easier than a full-service, fine-dining restaurant because of the relatively small number of ingredients. "For us, it was easier to wrap our heads around breakfast and lunch," he says. "Dinner is a little harder."
Indeed. Just ask Alexa Wilson, executive chef at Wild Sage. "That's pretty much what I deal with all day," she laughs. "Trying to find high-quality local organic ingredients."
Like Gauthier, Wilson looks for the local-organic combination first but will choose local food over organic food from far away. "I like the organic idea, too, but I almost like the idea of a known source more than organic," she says. "I could be buying a lot of things stamped certified organic that travel thousands of miles, with all the associated costs, but I'm trying to keep it super simple. And I've seen the certified organic label used more as a marketing tool than a true quality marker."
In the two years since Wild Sage opened, Wilson has established relationships with local produce suppliers who aren't certified organic. "Dan Jackson, Deer Haven Farms -- they grow organically but they can't afford to be certified," she says. "But I can talk to the guy who tilled the soil and planted the seeds, whose child ran around in the garden. I can back that up, more than I can back up a [certified] place where I don't know anyone."
Building those relationships takes a lot of time, she says, but it's something she wants to do. "We're all so busy, it's certainly easier to just pick up an order guide [from a large purveyor] rather than establish a rapport [with a small producer], "she says. "But the relationships are really rewarding. Even if it costs me a little more, which it usually doesn't, it's worth the time, worth the money."
Over at Hills' Restaurant, Dave Hill visits the downtown farmers market throughout the summer, and he deals regularly with a handful of local suppliers. Even at this time of year, he buys heritage grains from Lentz Spelt Farms in Grant County. "We do what we can," says Hill. "And making relationships with the farmers -- that's the key."
Both Hill and Wilson say that buying locally raised meat is one of the biggest challenges for chefs who want to use local ingredients. They have both chosen to work with Brandt Beef, a larger family-owned producer from Colorado committed to sustainable practices. "With the amount [of beef] that we go through, we have to get it from a large supplier," Hill says.
"It would be a challenge to have [local beef] in the restaurant on a static menu all the time," Wilson echoes. "Unless it's someone like Snake River Farms [a Boise producer of American kobe-style beef], the smaller producers really don't have enough cattle or a large enough production to keep us supplied."
Part of the challenge stems from volume, but much of it is due to USDA inspection requirements. Restaurants must buy meat (beef, lamb, pork and goat) from slaughterhouses that have been inspected and certified by the USDA, and there are few such facilities in the local area.
"Most small producers are unable to put together the number of animals and the money to ship animals and pay for processing to patronize the plant," writes Kelly Archer of K & amp; A Family Farm in north Spokane County. Local small producers of meat utilize smaller local slaughterers and meat cutters, Archer says, and then sell their meat direct to individual customers who have purchased anywhere from one-quarter to a whole animal. "Thus," Archer continues, "the meat is sold not by the package but by the animal."
And few restaurants are set up to buy an entire animal, or even half. "As a chef, getting a half a cow means I've got a lot of good things to give my guests," says Wilson, "but I've got a lot of other things I need to do something about."
One restaurant that has tackled these issues head on is Lovitt in Colville, where Norman and Kristin Six have been buying almost exclusively from local suppliers for everything -- including meats. They work with Lazy Lightning H Ranch to acquire whole grass-fed steers raised in Stevens County and slaughtered locally at Chewelah's Smokey Ridge Meats, which now has USDA certification. The Sixes then freeze the meat and use it as needed.
"We like to do it that way, but it's also the only way the small farmers are willing to do it," says Norman. "If I only wanted to buy steaks, then they can't move the rest of the animal. They raise steers, and that's how they move their beef, so that's the only way they'd sell it to me."
Buying whole animals has proven surprisingly economical, he says. "Our food costs are back in line with the restaurant we ran in Chicago," he says. "We thought this would be much higher, but it turns out the food costs are not prohibitive."
Of course, that means he has to figure out something to do with many pounds of ground beef, along with some of the less-used cuts, but he's taken that on as a culinary challenge. The bonus is ending up with lots of demi-glace, which he then uses in any number of dishes. "You work with what ends up being provided for you," he says. "Demi-glace comes from the fact that you have these bones. So the dishes you come up with rely on that reality."
-- ANN M. COLFORD
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & hen the New Oxford American Dictionary folks anointed "locavore" -- one who eats only locally grown food -- as their word of the year for 2007, the announcement marked the official entry of the local food movement into the American mainstream consciousness.
Before the Industrial Revolution, virtually everyone ate mostly local food, of course, although the desire for food from afar has driven everything from indigenous trade routes to exploration and colonization. Since the advent of our industrialized system for the production and distribution of food, the first retro whisper of "local" came from the marriage of organic food with the counter culture -- and with the efforts of people like restaurateur Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., beginning back in the '70s. In those early days, "organic" meant small and local by default, in contrast with the growing commodity-driven commercial food system.
"Organic" and "local" remained roughly equivalent -- and entirely on the fringe -- for a long time, until more and more people began demanding a change in how we as a nation get our food. Driven by health concerns and environmental concerns, demand for organic food -- seen as fresher, cleaner and more wholesome -- began to grow, prompting more and bigger players to jump onto the "organic" bandwagon. Large supermarket chains like Safeway and Wal-Mart began carrying organically grown products.
The development of large-scale organic agribusiness brought organics to a whole new group of consumers but led some of organic's most loyal proponents to reexamine their allegiance to the term because the small, local, relationship-driven aspects of organic have been lost along the way. Others, concerned about the fossil fuels used to transport even organic vegetables over vast distances, decided that getting food from closer to home was even more important than sticking to an increasingly bureaucratic and watered-down organic certification.
These trends coupled with the growing artisan food movement, and so rose the demand for local food.
Now farmers markets are burgeoning, books about eating local line bookstore shelves (and bestseller lists), and it seems that just about every new restaurant touts its friendliness to local sources. In fact, the local food phenomenon has become so prevalent that it's inspiring a backlash -- not just among national chains, but among some of the movement's earliest proponents, who wonder whether "local" has become nothing more than the latest foodie trend or marketing buzzword. "Locavore" may be in the dictionary now, but only time will tell how soon it gets marked as archaic or outdated.
-- ANN M. COLFORD
GROW YOUR OWN
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & ometimes the best way to get a reliable supply of locally grown produce is to do the growing yourself. And you can't get much more local than your own backyard. That's the solution several area chefs are coming around to, but Norman Six of Lovitt in Colville has an advantage -- the garden at his restaurant was already there when he and his wife Kristin moved in three years ago.
Six grew up just over the hills in Tiger, Wash., but had been living in Chicago for many years. After three years running their small restaurant in Chicago -- also called Lovitt -- both he and Kristin were ready for a change. They moved to Colville, following months of searching for just the right place, and purchased the 100-year-old farmhouse.
For the restaurant in Chicago, Kristin shopped frequently, bringing home the local meats and produce that were available, and the menu would change accordingly. Since opening in Colville, their dedication to local food has only increased.
One of the biggest draws of their house-turned-restaurant, says Kristin, was the rhubarb patch and herb garden that had been planted by previous owners. The Sixes have tried many crops over the past three years but have found that herbs -- including chervil, sage, savory, lovage, wild mint and bunches of basil -- and rhubarb are the easiest to couple with the full-time task of running the restaurant. They also grow horseradish, leeks and a few unusual lettuce greens that are not readily available at the local markets.
The Sixes aren't the only restaurateurs with the idea of growing their own food. Luna, on Spokane's South Hill, has an herb garden out back; the owners of Scratch and Olive Oilz plan this summer to incorporate homegrown produce on their menus; Hills' Restaurant is planning a rooftop garden; and the owners of the Barn on Trezzi Farm on Green Bluff grow their own herbs year-round in their greenhouse.
In the past, the Sixes have raised vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and peppers, but the burden of caring for all these plants -- coupled with the responsibilities of running a business -- are a little over the top.
"The local farmers are very good at growing tomatoes," says Kristin, "so we let them do it."
Because Lovitt's menu depends so much on availability, no item is ever guaranteed. And sometimes the challenges of what to do with the ingredients on hand give rise to creative solutions. One spring, for example, the rhubarb was ready before all the canned peaches were used up; since the spring salmon run was underway, the restaurant featured fresh salmon with a rhubarb-peach sauce. It's the age-old story of necessity being the mother of invention.
In the summer, buying local is obviously much easier with a twice-weekly farmers market, a supermarket that purchases local produce and a local Community Supported Agriculture program that delivers fresh, in-season produce and poultry to its members from June to December.
During winter, the Sixes have to get more creative, but that's when they rely on sauerkraut, frozen berries and the peaches they canned in the summer from fruit grown in Stevens County.
"You have to be dedicated to it," says Kristin. "You have to be really crazy and enjoy canning."
Like the farmers they deal with, she says, they have to be prepared to work 16-hour days in August to preserve everything they'll need for the winter. But those long hours allow for an authentic business that gives more than lip service to the concept of a local food community.
-- CAROL CORBIN
Three Women and a Local Wine
-- Daintily sampled by Mary Stover, Tammy Marshall, Ann M. Colford
725 W. Riverside Ave. * 624-7444
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he dark wood and earth-toned walls of Niko's wine bar contrast with the dining room's window-lit brightness and lend the air of an old-school library or club room. We began our quest for local wines at Niko's because of its voluminous wine list -- a leather-bound notebook of 28 pages. The list of wines served by the glass spans the globe, but surprisingly only one Spokane winery is represented. So for the evening we relaxed our definition of "local" to include all of Eastern Washington. Under the illuminated grapevine lights overhead, we enjoyed a mellow evening of conversation, snacks and fine sipping. (AC)
Walla Walla Vintners - Washington State Cuv & eacute;e ($13)
(Mary) From the first sniff to the first taste, this deep ruby wine is pleasing to the palate. It is very smooth and full-bodied throughout. A combination of eight different grapes from nine vineyards, the Cuv & eacute;e is a mouthful of flavor, full of sweet edges and spicy undertones. Without any morsel of food, this is a nice glass for sipping or drinking, but with food it got better. The lemon and garlic flavors of the hummus/tzatziki/skordalia/falafel appetizer only added to the wine's velvety touch, while the nutty and chocolatey tastes of the three baklava choices accented it nicely as well. Happily, this wine paired perfectly with everything I tried.
Columbia Crest - 2006 Riesling ($10)
(Tammy) Let me start off by saying that I'm not a fan of Rieslings. I live for the rich scent and texture of tannin-filled merlots and cabernets. On most days a Riesling would just be too sweet for me to handle, and I chose this wine mainly because I thought I would try something different. I was pleasantly surprised by the crispness. It was a sweet wine for sure, but the spiciness and intense aroma of apple kept the sugar at bay. The sweetness that Rieslings are known for passed through my taste buds for a mere moment and my palate was left with the clean and smooth flavor of rich fruit.
Barrister 2005 - Cabernet Franc ($12)
(Ann) Barrister's Cabernet Franc is like a fine and trusted friend -- I know what to expect, and I know I'll enjoy its company. The '05 doesn't have the star power of the Indy Award-winning '04 vintage, but it shares the same smooth complexity. A swirl in the glass unfurled the "rich berry nose" that this wine is known for, and the first sip lived up to the promise. When our appetizer combo arrived, the wine mingled especially well with the garlicky earthiness of the hummus, baba ganouj and skordalia (made with whipped potato). Like a socially adept companion, it's marvelous for an intimate one-on-one, but it really shines in the midst of boisterous company.
3315 W. Northwest Blvd. * 323-1600
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & n keeping with Downriver's attention to its locale, the family-owned restaurant stocks several Washington wines, including five choices by the glass from Spokane vintners Barrister and Townshend. (Robert Karl, Lone Canary, Nodland and Pend D'Oreille are represented on the bottle list.) We began with a BBQ chicken focaccia appetizer -- which was delicious, but the sweet barbecue sauce did nothing for our reds. At the recommendation of co-owner Aaron Sweatt, we switched over to the signature Gorgonzola fries and found a much better match all around. (AC)
Townshend - T3 ($9)
(Mary) T3 means three things: three varietals from three years and three vineyards. It's a non-vintage Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, and it's one of the Green Bluff winery's most popular products: Of 5,000 cases sold annually from Townshend, 3,000 cases are T3.
At first, T3 smells more acidic than it tastes. It had medium body, but on its own, it was way too sharp for my taste. The flavor changed completely with the richness of the Gorgonzola fries -- the pungent cheese mellowed out the acidity and smoothed out the sharpness. Still, it resonated through my sinuses and was very tangy at the front end of my palate. I'm thinking it probably would've paired better with chocolate.
Barrister 2006 - Rough Justice ($11)
(Tammy) This is the wine I've been waiting for: intense, dark and smoky with tannins ready to start a guerrilla war on my tongue. Paired with BBQ chicken focaccia, this red's tannin militia struck with an intense, spiky fervor. While I enjoyed the battle, I pushed the tannins back with the Gorgonzola cheese fries. They smoothed out and rolled over my palate with ease. The wine was never crisp and eager to please, but like a transformed stepchild, it left a silently bitter and clean aftertaste. This wine doesn't just pair well with rich food, but takes on a new personality with each bite and sip. This wine is moody -- but at the same time exciting.
Townshend - Red Table ($7)
(Ann) I've been on a red blend kick lately -- when I'm not swooning over big fruit-bomb zins, that is -- so I had to give Red Table a try. (The bottle label is a picture of a red table. There's a White Table, too.) The newest red blend from Townshend (joining Bordeaux sisters T3 and Vortex) combines varietals, vineyards and vintages into an approachable red wine that's easy-going and yet has plenty of character to make it interesting. On its own, this friendly wine has some initial front-of-the-palate snap, but the fruit comes through in the finish. It fought with the sweet smoky barbecue sauce on our focaccia but settled right down when paired with the creamy richness and crunchy starch of the Gorgonzola fries.
The Farmer/Chef Relationship
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & O & lt;/span & ne day two years ago, Pat Harlow and her husband Rick loaded a pile of produce from their Howling Hills Organic Farm near Cataldo, Idaho, into their vehicle and drove toward Coeur d'Alene.
"We had so much extra basil that we were looking for a place to sell it," she says.
The Harlows stopped at the Coeur d'Alene Resort, whose chefs were happy to take the fragrant herbs off their hands. That visit started a relationship that continues to this day. Last year, the resort ordered more fresh produce from Howling Hills, including melt-in-your-mouth cherry tomatoes.
"We bought so many that we couldn't use them all," says Rod Jessick, the resort's executive chef. Next week, he and the Harlows will meet to discuss this year's order.
"We're hearing from our customers that they want to eat food that is grown locally," says Jessick. "They want to know where their food is from. They want to know it isn't going to make them sick," he says, referring to the recent case of tainted cantaloupe from Honduras.
The Harlow farm is one of many in the Inland Northwest that are fulfilling an increasing restaurant demand for locally grown ingredients. Some producers have worked with local chefs for several years, but the relationship with chefs is still relatively new to the Harlows and they're adjusting to the new demand.
"We've expanded our acreage," says Pat Harlow. "We've added zucchini, several kinds of beets, rhubarb, thyme, in addition to our flagship cherry tomatoes. All kinds of restaurants want organic tomatoes." They've expanded their restaurant clientele to places like Brix, Tony's and the Black Rock restaurants.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & pokane Valley farmer Dan Jackson has sold to local restaurants for several years. He estimates he has 10 local clients for his basil, summer squash, lettuce, Japanese eggplant, romano beans and heirloom tomatoes.
"They can call me the night before and I'll get up early the next morning, pick what they want and deliver it that day," he says.
"Dan has good prices. He's reliable. He has a good product and he delivers door-to-door," says Latah Bistro Executive Chef David Blaine, one of Jackson's customers.
Jackson's willingness to deliver has helped him overcome what is perhaps the biggest obstacle between farmers and chefs.
"It's hard for chefs to find the extra time to go out and look for interesting new ingredients," says Brix Executive Chef Adam Hegsted.
But many farmers say their time is valuable, too. And they say restaurant sales often aren't lucrative. One Green Bluff farmer who didn't want to be identified says restaurants rarely buy enough fruit to cover his delivery costs. Gary Angell from the Rocky Ridge Ranch near Reardan has given up altogether on selling to restaurants.
"They want to buy local/fresh only if you are as cheap as the big distributors," he wrote in an e-mail. "We have had orders which required our commitment to grow the products ahead of time only to have them change their mind later."
Angell and many farmers bypass restaurants and sell directly to consumers at farmers markets. If they run across a chef or two, they're happy to sell to them. Chefs like Blaine and Hegsted say they try to occasionally get out to markets.
"It's about the relationship for me," says Blaine. "I learn from the farmers and they learn from me. Same thing with my vendors and my customers."
Rick and Lora Lee Misterly, owners of Quillisascut Cheese in Rice, Wash., are trying to cultivate relationships between producers and restaurants with their Inland Northwest Farm to Chef project. They've created a Website (inwfarmtochef.wordpress.com) where chefs who are looking for regional produce can make their wishes known. And they've created a guide for farmers who want to market to restaurants.
"Don't call during lunch or dinner service," writes Rick Misterly, whose company sells to restaurants in Seattle and at the Spokane Farmers Market. "Try to make [ordering and buying] as smooth a process as possible. Many chefs are committed to using local products direct from the farm, but they have a lot of other things to think about."
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & C & lt;/span & ommunication is one way to bring together farmers and chefs. Some local food advocates in Spokane are trying another strategy: overcome the delivery gap.
Pete Tobin from the Inland Northwest Culinary Academy at Spokane Community College says advocates are talking about creating a local food co-op that would give farmers a central place to deliver their produce and chefs a central place to go shopping. That could simplify things for people on both sides, but "that puts another entity in the middle of that relationship with the farmer," says Tobin.
That relationship is important, says Jeanette Herman, co-owner of Cliffside Orchards in Kettle Falls. "The local food interest isn't going away," she says. "We've seen that with the monumental burst in local farmers markets. It's great to see restaurants get involved, too."
-- DOUG NADVORNICK
When Spokavores Eat Out
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & D & lt;/span & ining locally doesn't have to mean just eating at locations where the ingredients are all locally grown or raised. For the Goodwin family of Spokane Valley, which has embarked on a year-long exercise in reducing consumption and buying local, it means eschewing fast food and chain restaurants in favor of those that are owned by people within their community. In other words, Starbucks is out, Rocket Bakery is in.
"When I support a local restaurant, I am directly supporting the livelihood of someone who has taken a risk to invest in the local community," explains Craig Goodwin, pastor of Millwood Community Presbyterian Church. "The least we can do is support them and reward them for that investment."
There are probably as many reasons for dining locally as there are restaurants: supporting the community, eating better and embracing the slower-is-better approach that sit-down restaurants proffer over fast-food places. For the Goodwins, not only is it the right thing to do, it's the righteous thing to do, as they draw inspiration from 2nd Corinthians:
"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: 'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.'"
Since January, Craig, his wife, Nancy, and their children have been blogging about their "experiment in consumption" at www.yearofplenty.org. The blog's title gives an indication of the tone of their overall message: decidedly upbeat and hopeful. And wonderfully humorous and humble. "What did people do before plastic wrap and aluminum foil?" reads a recent entry. "Nancy says they used Tupperware, but I don't remember seeing Tupperware on the old episodes of Little House on the Prairie."
One blog feature is a list of area farmers markets, including the market in Millwood that the Goodwins helped found. (Visit www.millwoodpc.org and select "Farmers Market.") That experience, combined with a general dissatisfaction over Christmas-season consumerism, fueled the Goodwins' interest in going local.
Their basic rules of consumption include making the product, growing the food item or buying from a local producer. Their efforts encompass the family's entire lifestyle, but they've also paid attention to where and how they will dine out. Because they limit their day-to-day consumption, the Goodwins allow themselves quite a bit of freedom when dining out, provided the place is locally owned.
"Our restaurant rule for the year is that once a week we venture out to a local restaurant and make an extra effort to get to know the owners," they write. "We also give ourselves the freedom to eat whatever is on the menu. This is our weekly decompression exercise and rebellion- suppression technique."
Under the blog's heading, "Chain Restaurant Replacement Guide," they list the places they visit in lieu of franchises. Instead of Subway, for example, they favor the Corner Door in Millwood; they'll patronize Mary Lou's Milk Bottle or Ron's Drive-In for ice cream and Kim Do or Vina for Asian cuisine.
"We make a point of asking to speak to the owners ... [and] hear a bit of their stories," says Craig. "We think of our diet as a relational diet in which we are intentionally learning the hopes, dreams and realities of local people's lives." About the most important thing we humans can do, he says, is to relate to each other.
In addition to creating connections with restaurateurs, the Goodwins strengthen connections within their family while dining out. "We've had great conversations with each other and our kids about the things we value and the reasons we do things," Craig says. By comparison, imagine the kinds of meaningful conversations a family could have in the car while trying to navigate the drive-thru lane.
With family dining a near-forgotten tradition among Americans, the Goodwins' approach is both inspiring and a little saddening. For me, dining out with my family as a child is something I will always remember and treasure; it was a rare time when everyone got along and we children were included in interesting conversations, plans for the future, and a sense of togetherness I have never been able to reproduce. There was more nourishment than just the food on our plates.
For as Deuteronomy says, humans do not live by bread alone.
-- CARRIE SCOZZARO
Three Men and a Local Beer
-- Quaffed by Jacob H. Fries, Luke Baumgarten, Joel Smith
332 N. Spokane Falls Ct. * 455-6690
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & H & lt;/span & ome to Big Horn Breweries, C.I. Shenanigan's has a little something for every drinker -- an extensive wine list and, most importantly, beer brewed on site. Hidden in the shadow of the Convention Center next to the Centennial Trail, the restaurant's tastefully adorned dining room has sweeping views of the Spokane River. It's fancy enough for an anniversary dinner. Meanwhile, its lounge has plush stools and spacious booths, although its view is of a parking garage. Among Inlander readers, Shenanigan's is often cited for having happy-hour drink and appetizer specials. It has also garnered attention, of course, for its 20-oz. beer selection. (JF)
Big Red I.P.A. ($5.25)
(Jacob) The menu listed a seasonal selection and our waitress was more than happy to give us a sampling of it, Big Horn's 71 Pale Ale. She didn't know the origins of the name, but it was tasty and smooth enough to consider drinking several. Nevertheless, I was more intrigued by the Big Red I.P.A. and ordered that instead. A smart choice, I think. Big Red has a deep amber color and, for my tastes, it's full of flavor, crisp and bitter with citrus undertones. By comparison, the 71 seemed a little dull and flat. I ended up ordering a second Big Red just to be sure.
Total Disorder Porter ($5.25)
(Luke) I like beer one of two ways. When drinking hard, often, I like not to taste it at all. I like it to slide down my throat as quietly as possible and do its work as if by magic. When drinking lightly -- when savoring the thing -- though, I like a ton of flavor. That's why, for light drunks, I've always been a fan of porters. I like the chocolaty, coffee-y, sometimes caramelly taste coating my tongue and sticking around awhile. I like to remember what I'm drinking, even when I ain't drinking it no more. That's why I can't really get behind the Total Disorder Porter. It's got a nice, balanced taste upfront, but by the time it leaves my mouth, it's gone.
71 Pale Ale ($5.25)
(Joel) We're not sure what the "71" in the 71 Pale Ale means, and we were fairly confused by our waitress' insistence that this was a "pale IPA" (as redundant as calling a dog a "canine German shepherd"), but we were all impressed with the sampler shot we got before ordering. The impression soured somewhat, though. Seemingly well balanced and full of flavor at first, halfway down the bulbous pint you realize that it pales (ahem) in comparison to Big Horn's other brews -- especially the Big Red. The flavor's OK, but as with Luke's porter the finish is non-existent. The moment you swallow, the taste and feel of the beer vanish from your mouth.
STEAM PLANT GRILL
159 S. Lincoln St. * 777-3900
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & ith its subterranean bar sunk into the hulking, tangled mass that used to serve as the city's powerhouse, tucked inside downtown and off the street, the Steam Plant likely isn't the place you want to go get a pint on a blissful summer day. Though it's not without light and airiness, this is a fallout shelter of a bar -- the kind of place you want to bunker down and escape the nuclear winter. Isolation and impenetrability aside, their 16-oz. beers are a huge bonus for these purposes. Well stocked with 10 drafts from Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company, you'd emerge after World War III fat, happy and more than a little buzzed. (JS)
Pullman Porter ($3.75)
(Jacob) For Spokanites too lazy to drive to Idaho for local beer, the Steam Plant is a good alternative. The restaurant serves up several options from the Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company, including its Pullman Porter, which has done well in the Northwest/Pacific region of the United States Beer Tasting Championships. As far as porters go, it has a nice, dark coffee color and is mellow and sweet with plenty of smokiness. I chugged mine quickly. However, after stealing a sip of Joel's Vanilla Bourbon Stout, I was left with an intense case of beer envy. Oh, sweet, sweet vanilla.
Honeymoon Wheat Ale ($3.75)
(Luke) I ain't a huge wheat ale guy, but I know what I like. I like my wheats to taste like I'm eating a big hunk of artisanal bread, to smell like yeast. While drinking, I like to think, "Hey, there are some gat-damned carbohydrates in here. There's nutritional value." I like thinking back to when humans first plowed the earth, to speculate that we may have domesticated wheat not to make bread, but to make booze. Honeymoon didn't make me think any of those things. It's a nice, ultra-light take on a hefeweisen, but there's very little grain taste and no aroma of yeast. As Jacob noted when he stole a sip, the taste is light enough to be overpowered by the orange wedge garnish.
Vanilla Bourbon Stout ($3.75)
(Joel) If you're only going to drink just one beer at the Steam Plant, drink the Vanilla Bourbon Stout. If you're going to have several, try this one last. Its bold flavor and "wow"-inducing kick will render your taste buds unable to enjoy the (otherwise very good) blonde ale. This is a beer to be sipped slowly and enjoyed -- even contemplated. The vanilla is clear; the bourbon is less so. It's sweet, like chocolate syrup almost, but the sweetness never dominates. It's a little smoky. There's the bitterness of coffee, mocha, espresso, but it never overwhelms (and I can't stand coffee). Then there's a creaminess that washes the whole thing down. Amazing. Go during the generous happy hour and get two. But take your time.